Volume. XXXiii, No. 14
Sunday, 30 September 2018

From the Pastor’s Heart: Character Needed?

I have been preaching a few messages about Christian character during the last two months.  However, my inner feelings and urges to speak more on this issue are not easily dismissed.  There are lots more things all of us need to ponder on.  I am going to pick some left-out thoughts that I have not shared with you through preaching yet.  I am thinking of speaking about the reasons why we need Christian character, or even a good character in general that improves society and communities with more kindness, social justice and stability, compassion, and even good policies in politics. 

The first reason I can think of is that life is too complicated to be simplified and that there are so many aspects of life that cannot be easily identified as either right or wrong.  There are a few such areas.  For example, let's consider alms giving, or philanthropy.  Once in a while, we hear sad stories of individuals, families, communities, and countries.  We may be compassionate toward them and feel sorry for them.  Then we begin to think of what we can do for them.  Some of us may be willing to offer something to them, or some just feel for them but soon forget them.  Regarding our responses from a strictly legal point of view, even if we do not give anything to them and do not do anything for them, we do not violate any law or regulation of our land.  We are not transgressors of the law.  Then, what makes us helpers and givers of the victims of abuse and natural disasters?  In the domain of public virtues like these, we find the role of character. 

Every human being has his/her character, which could be noble and decent.  It implies that everyone has the capacity to do good to one's fellow man.  Through God’s general grace, man is able to be kind and gracious to each other.  It is a false assumption that unbelievers or atheists cannot do good in a general sense.  For example, Paul says in Romans 2:14, For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves.  We have heard about great philanthropists in the world.  They give their riches to help the poor, the sick, and the victims of diverse tragedies, instead of giving them to their children.  They provide funds for various humanitarian aid projects instead of investing and reinvesting their wealth for more profits.  There are unbelieving politicians who have done remarkable works to benefit their countries, which Christian leaders have not been able to do.  There are law-abiding good citizens who are not believers of Jesus Christ.  They are honest, decent, and moral, while some professing believers are still living and walking in the flesh.  Character plays an important role in human behavior.  We must not take it lightly that Jesus says in Matthew 5:20, For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Pharisees who rejected Jesus wanted to do righteous deeds.  Matthew 5:16 says, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  The world sees and recognizes the believers’ good works as good and respects them for their good works.  What we see here is their character that encourages them to be virtuous. 

People are accustomed to live a regulated life by law and regulations.  However, if there were no law and governmental regulations, how would people act and behave?  Because most of life experiences happen in the areas between law and regulations and freedom.  On the one hand, we follow the regulatory rules, and on the other hand we follow our free choices and preferences.  Most of us live a daily life without even thinking about laws or regulations.  Some people misunderstand freedom - that it guarantees their rights to do anything they want to do.  They become anarchists.  It is not a right way of life.  As we can see, most of our daily experiences happen between law and freedom.  In this middle territory, character plays a significant role.  A few days ago, while I was driving home after the Wednesday night prayer meeting, I noticed that the petrol prices had really shot up.  I was looking for a petrol station that might still offer the previous cheaper price and found one.  I turned into the station without thinking of the other entrance coming into the same petrol station from a different direction.  I was the first one from my side of the entry point, while there were many cars in the queue on the other side of the entry.  When I turned into the petrol station, I could feel angry reactions from all those waiting cars from the other end.  Even though I could not see their faces because it was dark  and the headlights blinded my view, I could feel their angry reactions as if I was intentionally cutting into the queue.  Eventually, I gave up and left the place, though I did have a chance to get to one of the pumps.  Well, no law was violated on my part, and there were two entrances, and therefore I could use any entrance of my own choice.  I did not know that there were many cars on the other end, waiting for their turn.  How we are going to act and react in such situations is not regulated by anything like law or regulations, but oftentimes the demands to take action at such times come from within us, not without.  It is in the area of character.  John Silber, the former president of Boston University, has called it, “obedience to the unenforceable.”  Most of the time, we are not governed by law or regulations, though we keep them and abide in them.  Most disputes between neighbors, friends, colleagues, family members, and even spouses do not arise from our disobedience to the law or regulations but from disobedience to the unenforceable. 

Think about situations that have upset us while driving.  Some people may be driving recklessly but they have not violated any traffic regulations.  However, they irritate other drivers and cause them to make unnecessary stops or slow traffic.  These are the times when we are to be governed by the unenforceable, which I would name “character.”  I must admit that I have weaknesses on this matter.  John Fletcher Moulton said, “real greatness of a nation, its true civilization, is measured by the extent of this land of obedience to the unenforceable.  It measures the extent to which the nation trusts its citizens, and its area testifies to the way they behave in response to that trust” (“Obedience to the Unenforceable,” unpublished address, Boston University, 1998, 2).  It could be well applied to Christians and their churches.  Though they know the Bible and defend and justify their actions and words by appealing to scripture verses, if their hearts are not right with the Lord, they could be very wrong.  If they have not been nurtured and groomed into Christian character after Christ’s image, they could be the most troublesome members in their churches.  Most church issues do not arise from truth-matters but from character-matters. 

Today’s problem is that people rest their all-measuring rod on the law and governmental regulations to make a distinction between right and wrong.  However, there has to be something more than that.  If we bring the issue of the law of Moses into our thoughts, we may see the problem more clearly.  The Jews in Jesus’ day paid utmost attention to the observance of the law.  However, Mosaic law did not and could not deliver them from their sins.  Rather, they were fallen into self-condemnation.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:6, Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.  The letter is the Mosaic law.  Paul argues that the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.  Galatians 5:14 may surprise us; “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”  Love is not a law or regulation, but a virtue or character.  Hence we find a serious problem.  The shrinking emphasis on the importance of character in family, church, and society, invites more amoral individualism and collisions amongst its members.  Endless conflicts are guaranteed.  Families will lose peace and stability when their members are not building good characters.  Churches will suffer, and societies will lose true freedom.  When we fail to build good character in ourselves we become a law unto ourselves and make ourselves the authority over church and God.  It is not too much to say that we live with character.



Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



  • Welcome to our pulpit: Rev Edward Paauwe.
  • Holiday Bible Club flyers & registration forms available in the foyer. Today is the last day to register. More volunteers needed. If able to help, please notify Dn John Wong ASAP. Helpers meeting is held after today’s service at the Sanctuary.
  • No Adult Sunday School today.
  • Hospitality Roster for Rev & Mrs Mathews Abraham is available in the foyer. Many slots still available. Please show your hospitality.
  • Visitation to Alwyndor Aged Care, Hove on 14 Oct, 2.30pm. If you wish to participate, please inform Sis Sally Teng or Bro Zach Liang.
  • New Basic Bible Knowledge Class (in English) commences 21 Oct. Please inform Elder Michael D Lee of your interest by today so we know the number of booklets to print.
  • Missions Committee is planning a Missions trip to Cambodia (Jan) & Cebu (2-12 Feb). If interested, please see Elder Michael D Lee ASAP.
  • Daily Manna (Adult & Junior) available in the foyer. Donation $1/ copy.
  • Reminder: Daylight Saving starts next Lord’s Day @ 2am. Please advance your clock 1 hour before retiring on Saturday.
  • Lunch Duty: This week: Volunteers. Next week: AFG.


Praise & Thanksgiving

  • Visitors & church activities in the past week.



  • Speakers: IF Retreat - Rev Edward Paauwe; Holiday Bible Club & Seminar - Rev & Mrs Mathews Abraham.
  • Missions: Sis Esther Kim (Bandung).
  • Year 12 students: Exam preparation.
  • God’s provision of funds for our church missions, piano & building extensions.




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14 Bedford Square, Colonel Light Gardens, South Australia 5041